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Things to watch for in this year's World Series

Most likely MVPs

Phillies: Jimmy Rollins, SS. Rollins likes the stage as much as anyone, evidenced by his cockiness and bold predictions. But he also has the ability to back it up.

Yankees: Derek Jeter, SS. Alex Rodriguez has been the postseason star, which is fine with Jeter, who has hit .297 but is just 2-for-13 with men on base. Winning another Series means a lot to the captain; expect him to step up accordingly.

Most likely goats

Phillies: Brad Lidge, closer. With cautious handling through the first two rounds, he has regained some of his 2008 form, making five appearances without allowing a run and picking up three saves. But it's hard to forget how bad he was during the regular season — 0-8, 7.21 ERA, 11 blown saves.

Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, 3B. A-Rod has had a tremendous postseason so far, shedding his October choker rep with a .438 average, five homers and 12 RBIs. But he has had a few days to reflect on his greatness, and the Phillies will attempt to frustrate him by not giving him anything to hit.

Joe Namath moment of the day

Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins is never shy about things, so it wasn't a surprise that he has already made a Series prediction, going on Jay Leno's show Monday night and saying: "Of course, we're gonna win. If we're nice, we'll let it go six, but I'm thinking five, close it out at home."

The Yankees didn't seem too concerned, maybe because they know how few people were actually watching. "Jimmy likes to express his feelings," Derek Jeter said. "Let him have fun with it."

"He's Nostradamus, that's what I heard," Jorge Posada said. "He's been doing a lot of good predictions, so we have to take that away from him."

The Phillies are used to him saying this kind of thing. "Let's hope it's a good one," manager Charlie Manuel said.

How quickly they forget

Fox broadcaster Joe Buck said on Monday's conference call, "Who was in the World Series last year?" It was the Phillies and the Rays, of course, but the buzz is certainly greater this year with the Yankees involved and the Series opening at Yankee Stadium. "It's a little bit different," Phillies RF Jayson Werth said.

Times predictions

John Romano: Yankees in six. I've doubted them all season, so might as well jump on the bandwagon now.

Marc Topkin: Yankees in six. I always listen to what John tells me.

Players you haven't heard much about but will

Phillies: Carlos Ruiz, C: They call him Chooch in Philadelphia, but Clutch wouldn't be bad, either. Ruiz has hit .346 in the postseason so far, including a remarkable .625 (5-for-8) with runners in scoring position.

Yankees: Phil Hughes, RHP. It's hard to be a Yankee and be unheard of but Hughes is one of the minor guys who could play a major role — good or bad. He has been the eighth-inning setup man, but his recent struggles forced manager Joe Girardi to try other options.

Three potential keys

Starting pitching: Both teams have dominant aces in Cliff Lee (Phillies) and CC Sabathia (Yankees) and will try to get as much out of them as possible. After that, it's Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels and whomever the Phillies want to use (Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ) vs. A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and whomever the Yankees don't want to use (most likely Chad Gaudin).

Relief pitching: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has mixed and matched to get the most out of his shaky crew, though closer Brad Lidge has looked better. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been accused of over-managing in trying to maximize the matchups in front of Mariano Rivera. The difference is that when the Yankees go to Mo, the game's over.

The DH rule: Having to play without DH Hideki Matsui for the games in Philadelphia will hurt the Yankees. How much are the Phillies going to be helped by adding Ben Francisco (in Game 1) and Matt Stairs (in Game 2) to their lineup?

Biggest question of the day

Yankees starters CC Sabathia is a big man — listed at 6 feet 7 and 290 pounds — and he likes to wear his uniform baggy on top of that. That led to one of those kind of questions, when he was asked about the very likely possibility his jersey had more of the fabled pinstripes (estimated at 64 by espn.com uniform columnist Paul Lukas) than any other player in Yankees history. "I don't know, I never counted them," Sabathia said. "I do know I probably have the biggest uniform in the history of baseball, though. I'm proud of that."

Ripped from the tabloids

Leave it to the New York Post to stir things up from the start, photoshopping Phillies CF Shane Victorino's upper body onto the bottom half of a cheerleader with a headline about "The Frillies" coming to town.

"It's fun. It's sexy. At least my legs look good," Victorino said, but also, "What did I do to be the villain? We haven't played a game yet."

His teammates, naturally, had a blast with it.

"Scary," Phils closer Brad Lidge said. "Those definitely weren't his legs. Hopefully we won't see anything that disturbing again."

Added manager Charlie Manuel: "To me it was a little funny. That might help him play a little better."

Don't ignore the power of the Hinske

There's something about Eric Hinske.

In 2007, he was a Red Sox, and they went to the World Series.

In 2008, he was a Ray, and they went to the World Series.

And in 2009, he was a Yankee (after a June trade from Pittsburgh) and they went to the World Series.

Assuming he gets into a game, he will be the second player in history to appear in three consecutive Series with three different teams, joining Don Baylor (1986 Red Sox, '87 Twins, '88 A's).

"Just call me Good Luck Hinske," he said.

Ex-Ray factor

It's hard to call this one until the final rosters are set this morning. The Yankees could have Hinske and RHP Chad Gaudin, who may end up starting Game 4, plus pitching coach Dave Eiland. The Phillies may be Ray-free, with both INF Miguel Cairo (the last active player from the 1998 inaugural team) and third catcher Paul Hoover expected to be inactive.

Things to watch for in this year's World Series 10/27/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 10:04am]
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